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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"


to suffer like Christ,1 and then - a strange experience for a mystic -
he turned away from Jesus because, he thought, He barred the way
to God. This hatred of Jesus2 shows violently in his early work,
e.g. in his short story Der Apostel (1896), though here the main
ferment may have been Nietzsche's denunciation of Christianity.
In 1891 he was taken away from the cadet school on the grounds
of persistent ill health, and studied for a year at the Handelsschule
at Linz. In 1894 he passed his leaving examination. On his return
to Prague he began to write. His Leben und'Lieder (1894), of which
only five copies remain in existence, represent \&& juvenilia; in
Larenopfer (1896) his cult of death begins to appear; in the lyrics
of Wegwarten (1896), of which three hundred copies were printed
to be given away to the sick in hospitals and to the poor, we find
the poet's first experimental touches in alliteration, pictorial com-
pounds, and verbs for adjectives: Die'Luftlech'^tkrchenlustern . . . ,
blutenbe^wungene Zweige, blamnder Waldsee.

In 1896 Rilke went to Munich and in 1897 to Berlin. Between
1898 and 1900 he stayed a few months in Italy and twice visited
Russia. The Russian experience was vital. His guide was Lou
Andreas-Salome (p. 333). In 1899 Rilke stayed a week at Moscow
and six weeks at St. Petersburg, and on his return to Germany he
plunged fiercely into the study of the Russian language and of
Russian history. On his second visit in 1900 he travelled in South
Russia and the Ukraine, spent a few hours with Tolstoy at Jasnaya-
Poliana, and went up the Volga to Saratov. He had thought that
he had found his spiritual homeland in Italy; now he was sure he
had found it in Russia. Florence, with its beggars ever creating
God in the frescoes of Fra Angelico, had merely prepared him for
Moscow. The level Russian plain stretching away to infinity, the
simple religion of the peasants, to whom God was near as a
neighbour, made a deep impression on his mind. A few years
later he was to write to his friend, the Swedish writer Ellen Key:
'JLussland wurdefur mich die Wirklichkeit und ^ugleich die tiefey tdgliche
Einsicbt: dass die Wirklichkeit etwas 1? ernes ist, etwas, was unendlich
langsam ^ujenen kommt> die Geduld haben. l&tssland - das ist em LMnd,
wo die Menschen einsame Menschen sind^jeder mit einer Welt in sichjeder
voll Dunkelheit, me ein Berg; jeder fief in seiner Demut, ohne Furcht,
sich %u erniedrigen und deshalb fromm. Menschen will? erne ^ Ungemssheit

1  'Ich hide es, weil Christus es gelitten hat, still und obne Klage?

2 Equally marked but less strange in the verse of the Jew Albert Ehrenstein.